With FaceApp in the spotlight, autorities start to worry about personal data abuse. Meanwhile, new scams emerge
Poland and Lithuania said Thursday they were looking into the potential security risks of using a Russian-made face-editing app that has triggered a viral social media trend where users post "aged" selfies.
The chart-topping Russian-made FaceApp, which allows users to see how they will look as they age, also found itself in the eye of a political storm in the US Wednesday, with one senator urging an FBI investigation into its "national security and privacy risks".
Currently the most downloaded free app on Google Play with more than 100 million users, FaceApp was launched two years ago and went viral after its latest editing tool, an aging filter, sparked a flood of celebrity selfies. Its developers, Wireless Lab, are based in the Skolkovo high-tech hub near Moscow, often called Russia's Silicon Valley.
FaceApp CEO Yaroslav Goncharov told the Washington Post that Russian authorities did not have any access to any user data. Goncharov also told the Post that most photos are deleted from its servers within 48 hours and said the app did not use the pictures for any other purpose.
Stan Lowe, Zscaler global CISO, said, "companies should be concerned about users downloading these types of apps [...]. Any app that asks you to provide any data, biometric or otherwise, is going to use it for some reason. Companies and individuals should guard their privacy and data in all forms, including biometrics. We were all told not to tell strangers where we live—this holds true in an age where apps are collecting all kinds of data. Your privacy and data are valuable. As the old saying goes, beware of strangers bearing gifts."
The latest hype around the FaceApp application has attracted scammers who want to make a quick profit. Scammers have been trying, to various ends, to exploit this wave of interest, using a fake “Pro” – yet free – version of the application as a lure. The fraudsters have also made an effort to spread the word about this fictitious version of the currently-viral app – at the time of writing this blogpost, a Google search for “FaceApp Pro” returns some 200,000 articles. Regardless how exciting the topic is, avoid downloading apps from sources other than official app stores, and examine available information about the app (developer, rating, reviews, etc.).